Dubai’s Cinema Akil inspires Washington pop-up theatre

Patricia Nader fell in love with Dubai arthouse theatre and started similar project in the US capital

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A new pop-up cinema in the US capital took its inspiration from Dubai's famous Cinema Akil.

District Cinema is drawing crowds and creating a buzz in Washington, with film lovers seeking out its mix of independent foreign films.

About 70 people showed up for its first pop-up screening in May, when it featured the animated Danish documentary Flee about a refugee from Afghanistan at Afghan restaurant, Lapis.

“Film has the power to open your eyes to new cultures and countries and give you new ways of looking at the world,” District Cinema founder Patricia Nader said.

Inspired by Cinema Akil

With an expertise in hospitality and a passion for cinema, Ms Nader found the perfect mixture of the two in her new project — and it was all inspired by a trip to Dubai's Cinema Akil.

“I fell in love with the space because it's not only a cinema, it's also a tea house, it's a restaurant, but most of all, it's a gathering space for the community,” Ms Nader told The National.

She said she remembers visiting the Serkal Avenue gem and thinking: “I want to own something like this one day.”

Cinema Akil in Dubai's Al Qoz area. Photo: Cinema Akil

A couple of months after her trip to Dubai, she began to realise that dream.

“I started looking more into how [Cinema Akil] started and they actually started as a pop-up. They called it a 'nomadic cinema'.”

The pop-up business model made it easier for Ms Nader to begin work on her new project, constantly finding positives in the cinema’s roving nature.

“Each screening, each event will be at a different location. And it's not only the location that's different, it's the film, the community, the size of the event, the type of venue and the food and drinks that are being served. So each experience is really unique,” she said.

Syrian food was available for purchase during the screening of 'Peace By Chocolate' in District Cinema. Leen Alfaisal / The National

Changing the world, one film at a time

Ms Nader doesn’t only want to introduce people to different cultures and causes — she wants to shed light on pressing global issues.

District Cinema picks films based on current events and, with the help of local organisations, it donates a portion of the proceeds to a particular cause.

The screening took place in the Afghan bistro, Lapis. Leen Alfaisal / The National

The cinema has partnered with the Afghanistan Youth Relief foundation and the Karam Foundation for the screenings of films that showcase stories from Afghanistan and Syria.

“The community in DC is so receptive and encouraging to such events. I think the fundraising component makes people feel like they’re doing something about these crises that the world is facing,” Ms Nader said.

Coming film screenings will include themes such as abortion, following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v Wade, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Updated: July 01, 2022, 3:00 AM
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